Germany plans to put Airbus and Audi’s cool flying taxi concept into the sky

Remember that awesome mobility concept called Pop.up that showed up at the Geneva Auto Show in 2017 and returned again this year, redesigned as Pop.up Next?

Part car and part quadcopter, the electric-powered Pop.up Next is a collaboration between Airbus, Audi, and design house Italdesign.

The exciting news is that the Pop.up Next has been greenlit for tests, taking it a step closer to becoming part of a flying taxi service for city dwellers.

As per Bloomberg, the German government this week signed a letter of intent with Airbus and Volkswagen’s Audi unit to test the flying machine in and around Audi’s home city of Ingolstadt.

A specific date hasn’t yet been set for the trial to begin, but with a slew of other companies already testing working prototypes, those behind the project will be keen to get Pop-Up Next off the ground at the earliest opportunity.

Commenting on plans for the unique design, German transport minister Andreas Scheuer said in a statement,“Flying taxis aren’t a vision any longer, they can take us off into a new dimension of mobility.”

He added, “They’re a huge opportunity for companies and young startups that already develop this technology very concretely and successfully.”

So what exactly will the first Pop.Up Next testers be stepping into? Well, if the upcoming prototype is anything like the current design, they’ll find a machine that’s made up of two main parts — the ground module, essentially a futuristic-looking two-seat car; and the drone module, which connects to the top of the car before flying it off to its destination.

Both modules operate using autonomous technology so the occupants can simply program where they want to go and let the machine do the rest.

In the words of those building the system, Pop.Up Next “aims to give time back to commuters, freeing them from the need to drive, through a flexible, shared, and adaptable new way of moving within cities.”

Bernd Martens, Audi’s board member for procurement and the president of Italdesign, has described Pop.Up Next as “an ambitious vision that could permanently change our urban life in the future.”

The complexity of the system presents many big challenges for engineers working on the project, and means it will be some time before we know for sure if it has any chance of becoming a common sight in our towns and cities. But it’s definitely great to see the project moving toward the next stage of development.

Other designs for compact, vertical take-off and landing aircraft — ones comprising a single unit rather than two parts like Pop.Up Next —include the 184 from Chinese company EHang, Uber’s Elevate machine, and the German-made Volocopter. Besides Pop-up Next, Airbus is also backing the self-piloting Vahana air taxi.

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